It’s not dark yet for the Mariners, but it’s getting there. Their September swoon continued Monday night in a 8-1 blowout loss to the Los Angeles Angels at the start of a season-defining 11-game trip.
That makes five losses in six games, which means the Mariners’ postseason push is suddenly careening at high speed in reverse.
“We’ve got to string some stuff together,” third baseman Kyle Seager said. “We’ve just got to step up when you get in (run-scoring) situations. We’ve got to make something happen.”
The out-of-town news was disheartening, too. Kansas City rallied for two two-out runs in the ninth inning and pulled out a 4-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
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Result: The Mariners now trail the Royals by two games, with 13 to go, in the race for the American League’s final wild card. (A footnote: The loss arithmetically also eliminated the Mariners from the AL West race.)
The Angels pummeled Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma for a career-worst seven runs in 31/3 innings. Iwakuma gave up six on two occasions in 2013 but not more than five this season in 25 previous starts.
“My balance in general, my upper body and lower body, are just not linking right now,” Iwakuma said. “I need to make an adjustment.
“When I’m not able to make the adjustment, I’m not able to execute pitches, and that’s what I have to do from here on.”
What’s alarming is Iwakuma (14-8) is sinking deeper into a late-season funk just when the Mariners need him to be dominant. While 2-2 in his last five starts, he has allowed 22 runs and 30 hits in 211/3 innings.
“It’s not a physical thing,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “His velocity is better than it’s been all year. His split was great tonight.”
Until it wasn’t.
Iwakuma had not given up more than two walks in any of his previous 32 starts, but he walked two batters with two outs in the third inning and both scored in a decisive four-run inning.
Albert Pujols delivered the knockout with a three-run double after fouling off four pitches on an 0-2 count.
“He kept fighting off everything I threw,” Iwakuma said, “and he got his barrel to the ball. A good piece of hitting.”
Also alarming: The Mariners’ attack is flat-lining in the September crunch.
They avoided extending their franchise record for shutout losses, which sits at 17, by mustering a run in the eighth inning. But the Mariners have just 14 runs in their last eight games.
Monday, perhaps, deserves an asterisk.
They ran into Angels right-hander Matt Shoemaker, who is 7-0 with a 1.29 ERA in eight outings since Aug. 9 after allowing one run and five hits in 72/3 innings.
“He’s not a guy who is going to overwhelm you with stuff,” said first baseman Logan Morrison, who had two of the Mariners’ six hits. “But he has a pretty good idea of how to pitch.”
Shoemaker (16-4) departed after extending himself in a bid to catch Humberto Quintero’s one-one grounder in the eighth. Morrison scored on the play while shortstop Erick Aybar threw out Quintero.
Joe Thatcher and Vinnie Pestano closed out the Angels’ 17th victory in 20 games.
For the Mariners, Monday’s flop came at the start of a grueling trip that continues with three more games against the Angels before shifting to Houston for three games and to Toronto for four games.
All of that precedes a season-ending, three-game home series against these same Angels, who own baseball’s best record at 94-56.
“You’ve got to find a way,” Seager said, “regardless of who we’re facing or how good they are. Or whatever the case is. You’ve got to find a way to score runs. That’s what they did tonight. That’s what you have to do to win.”
Iwakuma retired the first eight Angels, including four on strikeouts, before issuing a four-pitch walk to Efren Navarro.
And things quickly escalated.
Navarro went to second on Kole Calhoun’s soft single to center. A walk to Mike Trout loaded the bases for Pujols, whose liner to left stayed just fair and produced three runs.
“I’ve seen Albert do that time and time again,” McClendon said. “That’s why he’s a future Hall of Famer. I thought that at-bat really wore on Kuma. He could never recover after that.”
After limping into second, Pujols left the game for pinch-runner Tony Campana. The injury was later characterized as a cramp in Pujols’ left hamstring.
And the Angels weren’t done. Howie Kendrick lined an RBI double past center fielder Austin Jackson that made it 4-0.
LA stretched its lead to 5-0 when David Freese led off the fourth with a booming homer to center. The Angels scored two more runs in knocking out Iwakuma and roughing up reliever Dominic Leone.
The lead climbed to 8-0 on Brennan Boesch’s two-out homer in the fifth against Lucas Luetge.
“We have to be better, obviously,” Morrison said. “We will. (This is) a good one to forget about and come back and get them tomorrow.”
There aren’t many tomorrows left.